I don’t normally use the Message paraphrase because that’s what it is: a paraphrase, but it seems to be the most current and relevant version of this passage.
A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them,
brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things,
but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!
Proverbs 31:10-31 [themessage]
Several times in Scripture, it speaks very clearly to the wife staying home to take care of the household and the children. It also talks about the woman being a provider simply in the house. But then in this passage alone it talks about her working diligently, and also spending money and buying property; money that she either had to make or ask her husband for and property that she works herself.
The best way to relate this to a current school-of-thought is to put it like this:
A woman’s job throughout all history and even to an extent today has consisted mostly of keeping the house and tending to the children. The man has always worked and provided for the family. Even today in post-feminist America, the man is more responsible for making the majority of the money in the household and tending to the outside work of the house while the woman is held accountable, quite frankly, for everything else. It even comes down sometimes to the education of the children for the woman to handle. Especially in Christian households, and that’s where the submissive nature (or lack thereof) comes in.
Ephesians 5:22 (ESV) says very plainly, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” [emphasis mine] That’s one of the biggest problems with the attitude towards submissive lifestyles. Women don’t submit to their husbands as they would to the Lord. The other problem with that comes from verse 25 (ESV), where it says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” [emphasis mine] Some husbands have this mindset that they are the husband, what they say goes, nobody else has an opinion, and that’s not the mindset Christ created for marriage. Christ created the mindset that the husband is the head of the house as he is the head of the church, and the wife is to love her husband and she loves the Lord. So, all else is irrelevant if you really think about it.
Whether a woman works, whether a woman stays at home with a slew of kids, whether a woman cooks every night or whether she simply makes sure her husband and family eats, it’s not an issue if the submission mentality is in line. If the vertical relationship between a man or woman and God is correctly aligned, the horizontal relationship between husband and wife will fall into place, as will every other relationship. This couple I know was talking about how many kids they wanted, and after going back and forth about two or three kids for a few minutes, he said to her, “The number of children really doesn’t matter all that much to me. The fact that I found you and that I know it’s a God-thing is enough of a foundation for me to begin on. The rest will simply fall into place.”
What he said sounds simple, almost too simple, and a little laissez-faire if you over analyze it, but if we really step back and think about how many things we allow to cause us grief just because we’re confused about what God is saying to us about it, it all boils down to one thing: letting God finally rule our hearts and minds with full and complete control. There is a very different result when that happens. The result is submitting yourself to the perfect will of God, regardless of how many paths it takes you to get there.